1st printing funded by City of Los Angeles Dept. of Cultural Affairs
2nd printing funded by SMART ART PRESS, Santa Monica, CA
Detail (4 of 7 cards shown)
© Kim Abeles, 1992
Statement · Biography · Bibliography
My work from the past two decades results from the urban experience, chronicling historical and contemporary issues housed in sculpture and installation. Data gathering, library research, and experimentation with unconventional materials are predominant methods of investigation in my artworks' development. I typically approach social issues through "portraits" of individuals transformed into broader themes; or, I create sculptural contraptions to collect visual or auditory data over an extended period of time. In both cases, the collected "facts" become elements from which I create artworks, and the process itself is materialized. The urban environment, feminism, aging, HIV/AIDS, and labor are some of the specific issues I have engaged through my work. In all cases, materials and form are inspired connections to my intellectual pursuits. I am a concept-seeker and an object-maker. The work emerges from my hands as both feminine and masculine, seeking objective and subjective realities, and spoken in a visual language of the poetic spirit.
Kim Abeles was born in Richmond Heights, Missouri in 1952 during a time when industry was thought to save the world and make it crystal clean like a new, enamel kitchen.
As an American Field Service student to Utsunomiya, Japan in 1969, Abeles met Buddhist priest, Kosai Kobari, who introduced her to traditional Japanese arts. In the mid-70s, Abeles lived in a converted grain silo in rural southeastern Ohio where she wrote and illustrated the book, Crafts, Cookery and Country Living, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. Her environmental and urban artwork is a result of a childhood in the steel town of Pittsburgh and her 1978 move to smoggy Los Angeles. By 1980, her downtown Los Angeles studio adjacent to sweatshops and the harsh streetlife provoked her to create artworks about "real" life rather than ethereal themes.
Since 1985, Kim Abeles has created many artworks about the environment with an emphasis on air pollution. The Smog Collector series brought her work to national and international attention in both the artworld and through mainstream print and electronic media. Abeles invented a method to create images from smog by collecting particulate matter onto stenciled images. She developed projects about air pollution in conjunction with the California Bureau of Automotive Repair, with the Environmental Studies Dept. at Oberlin College, and has served on think tanks and panel discussions for urban agencies, botanical gardens and environmental conferences.
Abeles has organized and co-curated traveling exhibitions related to the AIDS epidemic, the Gulf War, air pollution, and activist art. Her HIV/AIDS Tarot cards, created in 1992 (and pictured here) addresses the socioeconomic as well as medical aspects of the disease: an image is printed on one side of the cards, and an informative text is printed on the other side. She created the Run-off Dolphin Suitcase through a commission from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project (1994). In 1996 she collaborated with the web magazine ArtCommotion and created an interactive computer work entitled Equidistant, which explores sister sites in Los Angeles equidistant to the La Brea Tar Pits through concentric mapping, photography, and audio. In 1997 Abeles completed the Environmental Activity Book, which was partially funded by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. The book translates several of her environmentally-based installations into projects for the classroom and families.
Kim Abeles: Encyclopedia Persona, A Fifteen-Year Survey was initiated and sponsored by the Fellows of Contemporary Art in 1993, as a mid-career survey curated by Karen Moss and organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Following its United States venues, the exhibition began its tour of South America funded by the United States Information Agency (U.S.I.A.), opening at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile and culminating in 1997 at the Centro Cultural Consolidado, Caracas. Its encyclopedic-style catalogue, created through a close collaboration between artist, designer, and curator, was published in English, Spanish, and Portuguese editions.
Abeles's work has been exhibited throughout the United States, as well as galleries and museums in Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, and Czechoslovakia, and represented the United States in both Fotografie Biennale Rotterdam (1992) and Cultural Centre of Berchem, Antwerp (1993).
Statement · Biography · Bibliography
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All images and text © Kim Abeles.